SEOUL, South Korea — As he watched a dozen or more unconscious partygoers being carried out of a narrow back alley filled with youths dressed as movie characters, a devastated Ken Fallas couldn’t make sense of what was happening.
Fallas, a Costa Rican architect who has worked in Seoul for the past eight years, said Saturday’s Halloween festivities in the Itaewon nightlife district were a much-anticipated opportunity to hang out with other foreigners after years of restrictions imposed by COVID-19
Instead, the 32-year-old is a front-row witness to one of the most horrific disasters South Korea has ever seen.
The smartphone video shot by Fallas after the deadly crowd surge shows groups of Halloween revelers carrying their unconscious peers, one by one, down an alley near the Hamilton Hotel, past crowds of people dressed in capes and costumes from the Miyazaki film. Some people are seen performing CPR on injured people on the sidewalk, while others scream for help over the blaring dance music.
“I saw a lot of (young) people laughing, but I don’t think they were (really) laughing because you know what’s funny?” Fallas said. “They were laughing because they were too scared. Because being in front of such a thing is not easy. Not everyone knows how to process it.
Fallas said he and his friends were trapped in the huge crowds of people pushing toward the alley when police officers began breaking through the lines from behind to approach the wounded. He said people close to his group initially did not know what was happening.
“We were unable to come back. The music was loud. Nobody knew what was going on. People were still partying with the emergency going on in front of us,” he said. “We were like, ‘What happens from here, where can we go?’ There was no way out.”
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